Understanding Xeno & Phytoestrogens
Estrogen is the primary female sex hormone that is produced in the ovaries and, to a smaller degree, in the adrenal glands. Prior to menopause, the main form of estrogen in the body is estradiol. Estrogen functions in many ways in the body. Aside from regulating monthly cycles and impacting mood and libido, estrogen is responsible for the development of reproductive organs and breasts, fertility, supporting a healthy heart and blood vessels, healthy skin, nails, and hair, and maintaining bone density. Estrogen dominance is becoming more & more common as we are increasingly exposed to environmental estrogens. As women, it’s important to become aware of simple ways we can eliminate or reduce our exposure - especially to environmental estrogens and excessive amounts of dietary estrogens from soy.
Xenoestrogens (environmental estrogens) are synthetically derived chemicals that are found in plastics, pesticides, chemical products, conventionally-raised animal products, and tap water. Xenoestrogens are able to mimic the actions of estrogen in the body because they have a very similar chemical structure. Due to this similar structure, they elevate estrogen levels in the body, throwing off the delicate balance of hormones and disrupting the function of the endocrine system. Reducing exposure to xenoestrogens is essential in healing hormone balance and supporting our long-term health.
Excess estrogen may contribute to conditions such as: Increased PMS symptoms, Changes in hormone levels, Infertility, Excess belly fat, Difficulty losing weight, Uterine and breast cancers, Uterine fibroids, Endometriosis, Cysts & Varicose veins.
Sources of xenoestrogens
Plastics (water bottles, disposable cups, plastic wrap, food containers)
Pesticides (non-organic fruits and vegetables)
Conventionally-raised meat and dairy products
Tap Water (chlorine and other chemical treatments, runoff byproducts)
Chemicals in cosmetics, lotions, shampoos, and other body care products
Birth control pills
How to Reduce your exposure
Choose local and organic produce whenever possible
Choose organic, grass-fed meat and dairy products
Invest in a good water filter or opt for spring water delivery & use glass water bottles
Choose organic body care products or make your own
Explore non-hormonal birth control options
Avoid using plastic wrap or containers for hot foods and do not microwave food in plastic containers
Choose glass containers for food and drinks
Phytoestrogens (dietary estrogens) are plant-derived compounds found in a wide variety of foods and herbs, most notably, soy foods. They have a similar structure to estrogen and also act on estrogen receptors in the body. Phytoestrogen compounds have a weaker estrogenic effect in the body and are often beneficial in combatting symptoms and conditions caused by estrogen deficiency. This is especially helpful for premenopausal and post-menopausal women.
Sources of phytoestrogens
Soy products: tofu, tempeh, miso, and edamame
Flax seeds (lignans)
Legumes (peanuts, beans, peas)
There is no need to completely eliminate foods that contain phytoestrogens from the diet. If you’re dealing with excess estrogen or estrogen-dominant conditions and are actively trying to reduce the estrogen in your body, then reducing some of these food items (especially soy products) may benefit you.
Soy products, in particular, contain high amounts of phytoestrogens and are typically highly processed, and most conventional soy comes from GMO crops. If you choose to consume soy, choosing organic, non-gmo, and fermented soy products (e.g. miso, tamari, tempeh) is the best way to go. Most soy milk is highly processed with several additives + gmo - it’s best to avoid it.
If you’re dealing with estrogen-dominance or estrogen-dominant conditions, It’s helpful to work directly with a practitioner for guidance and support.
Who may benefits from phytoestrogens
Phytoestrogens may be beneficial for women during perimenopause, menopause, and post-menopause, when estrogen production from the ovaries decreases significantly and eventually ceases, lowering the body’s natural levels. Phytoestrogens can also be helpful for low estrogen symptoms such as very light or short periods, hot flashes, and vaginal dryness that can be brought on by low body weight and excessive stress. Low estrogen can also signal anovulatory cycles (no ovulation) which may be the cause of fertility issues. It’s best to get your hormones tested and see where there is an imbalance, then work directly with a practitioner for support.
Consuming specific seeds at different phases of your cycle can help restore hormonal harmony. Seed cycling with flax, pumpkin, sesame, and sunflower seeds is a great place to start. See our journal piece here for more details.
Natural ways to regulate estrogen levels in the body
Drink more water!
Try: Aiming for ½ your body weight (in lbs) in oz of pure filtered water daily to help clear excess estrogen from the body
Exercise regularly to help clear excess estrogen and regulate insulin levels in the body.
Try: Aiming for 30 minutes of exercise daily
Stick with whole foods as a diet high in processed and refined carbohydrates and sugar can increase estrogen to unhealthy levels and lead to weight gain.
Try: Including plenty of whole foods in your diet, such as a variety of fruits and vegetables, broccoli, kale, sweet potato, cucumber, berries, mango, quinoa, avocado, and hemp seeds.
Cruciferous vegetables produce compounds in the body which can lower the effects of estrogen in the body and also help the liver effectively perform its detoxification processes.
Try: Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, kale, bok choy, and collard greens
Probiotic-rich foods or supplements improve digestion and elimination in the body, helping to remove excess estrogen from the body and prevent reabsorption.
Try: Kimchi, kefir, sauerkraut, or a high-quality probiotic supplement
Limit alcohol and caffeine to support your adrenals, thyroid, and liver, helping to support the detoxification of estrogen and to maintain essential micronutrients needed to restore balance.
Try: Caffeine alternatives such as Dandy blend, and limit alcohol consumption to 4-5 servings per week